If you can’t go into business with your best friend, then who can you go into business with? That’s how Kirsten Poe and Renée Warren saw it in 1993 when they pooled their talents and resources to create Noelle-Elaine (their middle names, respectively) Media Consultants, a New York City-based firm that specializes in event planning, publicity and video production.
Poe and Warren met and became fast friends while working together at CNBC. Their trek into entrepreneurship was almost happenstance. In early 1993, they couldn’t afford to go on vacation, so they devised a plan to throw a party and charge admission to finance their trip. They managed to attract 200 people, and soon after decided to go into business based on their party’s success.
Noelle-Elaine began as a home-based business, with the two entrepreneurs working out of Warren’s studio apartment. “PR is about image,” says Warren. “We had a computer and a printer, and there was a Kinko’s right around the corner.” By July 1994, they had moved into an office. When some of their clients were forced to cut back, Noelle-Elaine hit a slump. That’s when the duo had to rely on their budgeting skills, surviving on peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and sharing a wardrobe.
Five years later, they’re still best friends and Noelle-Elaine’s 1998 revenues were $1 million. Their staff of 10 employees handles clients such as Earl G. Graves Ltd., Black Entertainment Television Movies, Charles Schwab, Home Box Office and Citibank. They were also 1999 be Small Business Award nominees.
The fact that Poe and Warren were friends when they started Noelle-Elaine could easily have been a liability, but they made their friendship an asset.
“The business is structured as a 50-50 partnership. You really have to think about who you choose as a partner and separate your business from your friendship, otherwise it could cause conflict,” says Warren. “Even if we disagree on things about business, we’ll always be friends. We respect each other’s opinion.”
Warren adds that it helps to have the same work ethic and the drive to succeed. “We both believe in Noelle-Elaine as a company and would do whatever it takes to make it succeed,” says Warren.
Noelle-Elaine Media Consultants, 51 East 42nd St., Suite 812, New York, NY 10017; 212-370 5483; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org